Business Bites: Nurturing your team

Nick Walsh FBDO
ABDO head of corporate development

Following on from our last article about becoming a leader, it is important that existing leaders constantly strive to improve not just themselves, but their teams too.

It can be stated that your main goal as a leader is to build capability and future leaders within your team.

In their article, ‘Begin with trust: the first step to becoming a genuinely empowering leader‘, Frances X. Frei and Anne Morriss write: “The traditional leadership narrative is all about you: your vision and strategy; your ability to make the tough calls and rally the troops; your talents, your charisma, your heroic moments of courage and instinct. But leadership really isn’t about you. It’s about empowering other people as a result of your presence, and about making sure that the impact of your leadership continues into your absence.”

There can be times though when it feels as though your priorities are in conflict, after all, many articles and texts will tell you that as a leader your primary objective is to create value for your organisation, but this value is not always in terms of financial value.

Learn to teach and guide

So how do you know what level you should be working at as a leader? Well in reality, you’re being paid to teach others, and not to ‘do’. It can be difficult for leaders to let go of some roles and responsibilities, but if you are still doing your team’s work for them, then you can’t be dedicating enough time to your own work. Although you may no longer be an individual contributing within that team, your role is to ensure that those individuals in the team are contributing well and achieving good outcomes for the business.

Your role is to guide individuals and to help them grow in terms of capabilities and confidence. This, in turn, leads to a team that will grow in strength. If you continue to do your team’s tasks for them, the team remains weak and may also lack trust in you as you lack trust in them. In addition, instead of growing as a leader, you will find yourself mired down in high workload with a diminishing return for your efforts.

Hold your team accountable

Accountability is key: be accountable for your team’s actions and activities, and hold each individual in the team accountable for the things they need to deliver. Ensuring that individuals deliver the results expected of them doesn’t happen by chance, you need to spend a good amount of time with them on a one-to-one basis, potentially in an appraisal or simply in more regular scheduled meetings.

A leader’s role is to offer support, to encourage and to motivate individuals to take on responsibility for tasks for which you have set clear objectives and expectations. Whilst at first it may seem that you have created a situation where a less skilled individual now does the task and takes longer, you will be investing in that person and the future where they competently and confidently complete the task.

Part of this one-to-one time will allow you to discover the strengths and weaknesses of individual team members and establish development plans for them to build on their strengths and to develop them in their weaker areas.

In our last article, we touched on the importance of moving people away from relying on you for solutions to issues by asking them a series of questions that will help them to find solutions or alternatives for themselves. Such questions may include:
• What do you believe the core issue is?
• Are there any alternative approaches that may work?
• Who else have you consulted to reach a solution?
• What could we do differently that would help?
• Do you have the resources that you need for the task?

These questions will help them to find creative solutions themselves as well as other sources of information and knowledge that they can tap into. When individuals come to you to discuss an issue, establish what they need from you and don’t make any assumptions.
Is it?
• Support
• Advice
• Information
• A decision

Empowering your team will help them go from strength to strength as well as illustrating that you have trust in them.

Principles that reinforce empowerment

Susan Heathfield, in her article ‘Top 10 principles of employee empowerment’, shares 10 important principles for managing people that reinforce empowerment:

1. Demonstrate that you value people
Have regard for your team. Facial expressions, body language and your words express what you are thinking about the people that report to you.

2. Share leadership vision
Help the team feel they are part of the bigger picture, include them in the planning on the product/service and department.

3. Share goals and direction
When possible, include the team in goal setting at department level; they can add value, knowledge, ideas and experience. Progress on goals should be measurable and observable.

4. Trust people
When the team receive clear expectations, they relax and trust you, focusing their energy on accomplishing work and not worrying and second-guessing.

5. Provide information for decision making
Make certain that people have, or can gain access to, all the information needed to make thoughtful decisions.

6. Don’t just delegate the drudge work
Don’t just delegate the drudge work. You need to make work enjoyable, so be sure to delegate some of the fun stuff and assignments that you know a person is interested in. Some of the fun, interesting work you can delegate includes the projects that people and customers notice.

7. Provide frequent feedback
Provide feedback so that the team know how they are doing. People deserve constructive feedback, so they can continue to develop their knowledge and skills.

8. Solve problems: don’t pinpoint problem people
When a problem occurs, ask what is wrong with the work system that caused the team to fail not what is wrong with the people.

9. Listen to learn to ask questions
Provide a space in which people will communicate by listening to them and asking questions. Ask their opinions and trust their judgements.

10. Help employees feel rewarded and recognised
Basic needs of employees must feel met for employees to go above and beyond what is expected. Recognition plays a big part.

Next time, we will explore the role of business stakeholders.